Wednesday’s Den: USFL trends, and other random stuff……..

— Cardinals/Royals are both scheduled off today/Thursday; can’t remember a major league team having two scheduled off days in a row, other than the All-Star break.

— Mets 2, Phillies 0— Kodai Senga’s home/away splits:
Home:  3-1, 1.20 in five home starts.
Away: 2-2, 6.12 in five road starts

This was the first game in seven years where the Phillies didn’t have a runner reach second base; Brandon Nimmo robbed Castellanos of a home run with a great catch in the 4th inning. 

— Padres 9, Marlins 4— Sandy Alcantara is having an off year; he led this game 4-2 after six innings, but walked San Diego’s #8/#9 hitters leading off the 7th- they both scored. All four runs Alcantara gave up reached base via a walk, including the #9 hitter twice.

San Diego scored five runs in the ninth inning for the win. 

— Arizona 5, Colorado 1— Zac Gallen tossed six shutout innings against a dreadful Colorado team that is 9-18 on the road. 

— Reds 9, Red Sox 8— Cincinnati led 3-0 after six innings; if you bet the under, no bueno. Lively threw 5.2 scoreless IP for the Reds. Barreto hit a 7th inning grand slam. 

— Cubs 2, Rays 1— Tampa Bay scored once in its last 19 innings; they’re 13-12 on the road, their lead in the AL East is down to 3 games over Baltimore.

— Odds on NBA Finals: Denver -360, Miami +270.

— Bob Myers is quitting as Golden State Warriors’ president/GM; could this be the beginning of the end of Golden State’s great run? Myers is only 48, surprising to see him leave Golden State.

Warriors are approaching some decisions with a payroll/luxury tax that could approach $500M in 2023-2024- Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, two cornerstones of their great run, have contracts ending soon.

— If you’re a fan of the NBA, I highly recommend a visit to Las Vegas for NBA Summer League, which takes place July 7-17 at UNLV. Every team is represented; you can sit there all day and watch 4-5 high-quality games, all in air conditioned comfort. 

You’ll see lot of NBA celebrities there; all the coaches/GM’s, some former players who do TV work now. Two games happen at once, one in Cox Pavilion, one in the Thomas & Mack Center- they’re a short walk apart.

The games are highly competitive, because everyone playing is fighting for a job; just be careful betting on the games. Not every team plays its best players every game; they give a look to some of their bench players, so caution is advised when wagering.

— College basketball star Caleb Love is transferring from North Carolina to Arizona; originally he was going to transfer to Michigan, but they wouldn’t accept all his credits from UNC, so now he is off to Tucson, where he will be much warmer. 

— Last five College World Series were won by Oregon State and four different SEC teams. In the last five title games in the CWS, seven of the ten teams came from the SEC. 

— Eight teams from North Carolina are in this year’s College World Series.

USFL trends, thru seven weeks:
All four games last week were decided by 6 or less points.
Last three weeks, under is 9-3 in USFL games.

Stallions (5-2)
5-0 allowing 20 or less points; gave up 45-27 in losses.
4-3 ATS (favored in every game)
2-1 in games decided by 7 or less points.
under 5-2

Gamblers (4-3)
won four of last five games, after an 0-2 start
2-2 ATS as a favorite
last three games stayed under.
4-1 if they allow less than 29 points
losses were 29-13/38-31/23-20

Showboats (4-3)
won/covered last four games, after an 0-3 start.
allowed 27-42-30 points in losses; 10-10-0-20 in wins
under five of last six games
4-3 ATS; have been underdog in every game.

Panthers (3-4)
lost four of last four games, after a 2-0 start
scored 13 or fewer points in all four losses.
3-1 ATS as an underdog.
five of last six games stayed under total.

Generals (2-5)
lost last four games, by 3-3-6-3 points.
Allowed 3-13 points in wins; 0-5 giving up more than 13.
1-3 ATS as a favorite.
Five of seven games stayed under total.

Breakers (4-3)
lost last two games (10-17/10-16/20-24) after 4-0 start
last four games stayed under total.
6 of 7 games decided by 7 or less points.
3-2 ATS as a favorite

Stars (4-3)
won/covered last three games, after a 1-3 start.
4-0 in games decided by 6 or less points.
Losses are by 14-8-25 points.
4 of last 6 games stayed under total.

Maulers (2-5)
0-5 if they give up more than 13 points.
Two wins were 21-13/23-7
under 4-3
0-4 if they score less than 21 points.

Tuesday’s Den: Nobody asked me, but…….

— Heat 103, Celtics 84
Miami shot 14-28 on the arc, Boston 9-42.
There were only 19 foul shots taken in this game, total.

Caleb Martin scored 26 points for Miami; on August 7, 2021, the Charlotte Hornets waived Martin, just cut him. No bueno.

Heat was +17 in 20:00 with Duncan Robinson on the floor. Duncan Robinson started his college career at Williams College, a Division III school. Shooting is marketable.

— There have been 151 NBA playoff series where a team led 3 games to none; there have been only four Game 7’s in those 151 series. The team leading 3-0 won all four Game 7’s.

Because of this, I’m suggesting a rule change that will never become a rule, but maybe it should.

New rule suggestion: Any NBA best-of-7 playoff series ends if a team goes ahead three games to none. This would make Game 3’s highly dramatic when a team led 2-0; either they clinch the series or it becomes 2-1 and a highly competitive series.

The new rule would eliminate games, which would reduce revenue which is why it’ll never happen, but it might also increase TV ratings for Game 3’s. Higher TV ratings equal more money.

— Golden Knights 6, Stars 0— Vegas wins this series in six games, makes it to the Stanley Cup finals for second time in their six years of existence.

— So far this baseball season, there have been 75 games in April/May where a starting pitcher gave up 7+ earned runs.

2019— 71 such games
2020— there was no baseball in April/May
2021— 49
2022— 46
2023— 75

Starting pitchers are getting roughed up a lot more this season.

— Pittsburgh Steelers QB Kenny Pickett’s car was stolen from a dealership, with his Steelers’ playbook inside. The genius who stole the car left his own car at the dealership. Not good, except for the cops who arrested the genius.

— Great news tonight in Chicago; White Sox reliever Liam Hendriks pitched Monday, five months after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Good to see him pitch again.

— In the Angels-White Sox game, the player who made it to the majors first from every amateur draft from 2019-22 were in uniform:

2019— Andrew Vaughn
2020— Garrett Crochet
2021— Sam Bachman
2022— Zach Neto

— A’s 7, Braves 2— Oakland snaps its 11-game losing skid; Lucas Erceg tossed three scoreless innings in relief, Ryan Noda hit a 3-run homer.

— Cubs 1, Rays 0— Marcus Stroman throws a 105-pitch complete game shutout; he allowed only two baserunners.

— Twins 7, Astros 5 (10)
Altuve’s grand slam gave Houston a 5-4 lead in 7th inning
Royce Lewis tied the game with a 9th inning single.
Ryan Jeffers’ 2-run homer in the 10th inning was the game-winner.

— Random fact: Dave Kingman hit 442 home runs in his career, the most ever of any player from Oregon.

— Philadelphia 76ers named former Raptors’ coach Nick Nurse their new coach. Nurse was 252-179 in five years coaching Toronto, 25-16 in playoff games. Raptors won the NBA title in Nurse’s first year coaching the Raptors, 2018-19.

— 85 college basketball teams are scheduled to take foreign trips this summer; NCAA rules let a team take a foreign trip once every four years. Trips like that help team bonding, give players experience working together, gives teams a head start on the upcoming season.

— One of the advantages of having Amazon Prime on my TV is that it is basically the graveyard for most every movie ever made. Late at night, can find lot of older movies I enjoyed watching, and still like watching.

Stumbled across the 1988 movie Beaches the other night, with Bette Midler/Barbara Hershey. Saw this movie in the theater with my future ex-wife 35 years ago; it was a unique experience.

Very sad movie; Barbara Hershey’s character dies young because of a heart problem. Her best friend, who is a famous singer, tries to care for her and her young daughter. When we saw the movie in the theater, at the end of the movie, everyone in the crowded theater was in tears, it was that sad. You could hear dozens of people openly sobbing.

Never saw/heard anything like that, before or after. 35 years later, the movie still holds up. 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Sunday……..

— Happy 85th birthday to Jerry West, one of the best basketball players of all time, and also one of the best NBA executives ever.

West was a 14-time All-Star; he won a title with the 1972 Lakers, then won eight more rings as an executive. He is also part of the NBA’s logo, quite an honor.

Happy birthday, sir. 

— It turns out Raiders’ new QB Jimmy Garoppolo was slow signing his contract with Las Vegas because he underwent surgery on his injured foot in March. Bottom line is that the Raiders can get out from Garoppolo’s contract if this injury continues to be an issue.

His signing bonus becomes part of his salary, which means if the contract gets voided because of the injury, Garoppolo gets bupkis. He had previously agreed to an $11.25M signing bonus. Now his salary is $22.5M, but he has to stay in one piece to get it.

Right now, the Raiders’ other QB’s are:
Brian Hoyer, Aidan O’Connell, Chase Garbers— Garoppolo’s foot better stay healthy. 

— NFL teams with no primetime games this season:
Arizona, Atlanta, Houston, Indianapolis

— Since 2016, there have been fifteen Week 1 NFL games with a total of 50+

Over in those fifteen games was 9-5-1.

Right now, there are two Week 1 games with a total of 50+:
Lions-Chiefs, and Dolphins-Chargers.

— A’s CF Esteury Ruiz leads the major leagues with 27 stolen bases, so despite how horrible a team Oakland has been so far, they do lead the league in something good.

— Astros 10, A’s 1— Jose Abreu hit his first home run this season, in Houston’s 52nd game.

— Brewers 7, Giants 5— Giants’ OF Mike Yastrzemski hit a home run in Milwaukee Sunday that would’ve been a home run in 29 of 30 major league ballparks; the one park where it would not have been a home run was San Francisco, Yastrzemski’s home park.

— Guardians 4, Cardinals 3— Cleveland is now 11-14 in one-run games this season; no one else in the majors has played more than 20 one-run games (Reds are 8-12).

— Braves 11, Phillies 4— Lousy Sunday night game; Atlanta scored seven runs in the first inning, knocking Dylan Covey out in his first start for the Phillies.

Michael Harris made a great catch in centerfield, robbing Kyle Schwarber of a home run.

— Was watching the White Sox-Tigers game Sunday; Detroit TV guys were explaining how Tigers’ P Michael Lorenzen watches video of opposing hitters in the clubhouse in between innings when he is pitching. Lorenzen is 2-2, 3.50 in eight starts this season.

— Rockies 11, Mets 10— Colorado scored 21 runs the last two days, wins 2 of 3 in series. Ryan McMahon tied a career high with five RBI in this game.

— Tigers 6, White Sox 5 (10)— Detroit has won five of its last seven games, is now only a game out of first place in AL Central, despite its 25-26 record.

— Marlins 2, Angels 0— Miami sweeps the Halos in Anaheim, not a good weekend for a team trying to keep one of its two stars from bolting in free agency.

— Rays 11, Dodgers 10— LA starter Gavin Stone gave up seven runs in two innings; he got 15 whiffs on 40 Tampa Bay swings, which is good, but the Rays put 13 balls in play, and got 10 hits, which is really bad. Dodgers are hurting for starting pitching right now. 

— Remember Bob Denver, the star of Gilligan’s Island? Turns out that after Gilligan’s Island was cancelled back in the 60’s, the actor bought a 14-foot sailboat and moved into a house overlooking the water north of Malibu.

Hopefully he didn’t take the sailboat on any three-hour tours.

— Sunday was the halfway point of the NFL’s offseason; the Super Bowl was 15 weeks ago, and Week 1 is 15 weeks ahead of us. 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

— Celtics 104, Heat 103
Derrick White put in an offensive rebound at the buzzer to force Game 7.
Boston won despite shooting 7-35 on the arc.
Game 7 is Monday night in Boston.

If you see a replay of the last shot, watch Derrick White inbound the ball, then cut to the corner, where he was wide open but didn’t get the ball, but he pounded the boards and put the missed shot back in to win the game.

White didn’t get any Division I offers when he was in high school; he played D-2 ball for a few years, then transferred to Colorado, and worked his way into the NBA. Hard work pays off.

This is the 151st NBA playoff series where a team led 3-0; it is only the fourth time there will be a Game 7- the others:

1951 Knicks
1994 Nuggets
2003 Trailblazers
2023 Celtics

The other three teams all played Game 7 on the road, and they all lost.

— Milwaukee Bucks are hiring Toronto assistant Adrian Griffin as its new head coach, replacing Mike Budenholzer, who went 271-120 as coach of the Bucks, 39-26 in playoff games— he won the 2021 NBA title, but new ownership changed coaches.

Griffin has never been a head coach; he played in the NBA for nine years— his son plays for the Atlanta Hawks.

— Twins 9, Blue Jays 7
Minnesota hit home runs to centerfield on consecutive pitches in the 5th inning; Toronto CF Daulton Varsho had his glove on both balls, but couldn’t bring either one in.

— AL Central standings:
Twins 27-25
Tigers 24-26
Guardians 22-29
White Sox 22-32
Royals 15-38

By way of contrast, Toronto is 27-26, only a half-game worse than Minnesota, but the Blue Jays are in last place in the AL East.

— In six years with the Angels, Shohei Ohtani has played only seven games in the outfield; will the Angels trade him in July, or risk losing him for nothing next winter?

— White Sox SS Tim Anderson has had 15 4-hit games in his career; eight of them have been against the Detroit Tigers.

— Playing fantasy baseball is fun, it is fascinating, but it can also by mystifying; how else do you explain how some players come out of nowhere to have great/lousy seasons?

Marlins’ OF Jorge Soler is in his 10th year in the major leagues; he hit 48 homers for Kansas City four years ago, after hitting a total of 38 in his first five seasons. He’s hit more than 17 homers in only one other season (he hit 27 in 2021).

He hit his 17th home run Saturday night; that’s the 3rd-most homers he’s ever hit in a season, and now he’s homered in five straight games for the spunky Marlins.

— Cardinals 2, Guardians 1 (10)— St Louis had only two hits; the winning run scored on a passed ball. Brendan Donovan homered for the Redbirds.

— Phillies 2, Braves 1
Phillies’ starter Wheeler induced 22 whiffs on 53 swings. 
Braves’ starter Morton induced 22 whiffs on 45 swings.

That doesn’t happen very much, m both starting pitchers inducing 20+ whiffs in a game.

— Mariners 5, Pirates 0— Pittsburgh hit 7 home runs Friday night; they had two hits in this game, one of them a double by Marcano leading off the game. Luis Castillo tossed six shutout innings for the second time this week.

— Rockies 10, Mets 7— Colorado blew a 6-0 lead, but they scored two runs in 7th, two more in 8th to avoid a hideous loss.

— South Florida’s football team has won a total of four games the last three years; their new coach has brought in 41 new scholarship players this season. You can only have 85 players on scholarship, so they’ve turned over half the team since last season.

— If the baseball playoffs started today (they don’t)
NL— Braves, Brewers, Dodgers. Wild Cards: Arizona-Giants-Pirates
AL— Rays, Twins, Rangers. Wild Cards: Orioles-Astros-New York

Saturday’s Den: Clearing out a cluttered mind…….

— Horse walks into a bar, orders a drink.
Bartender pours the drink, puts it down on the bar in front of the horse.
He looks at the horse and asks……..
“Why the long face?”

— Detroit Lions haven’t won a playoff game since 1991; they’re favored in 11 of their first 14 games this season. High expectations for a team that last made the playoffs in 2016.

— Nationals 12, Royals 10— Luis Garcia went 6-for-6, just third time in Nationals/Expos history a player had six hits in one game.

Kansas City is 0-11 in Jordan Lyles’ starts; he allowed only one run in first five innings, but the wheels came off in the sixth inning, when Washington scored eight runs.

— Pirates 11, Mariners 6— Pittsburgh hit seven home runs, third time in franchise history they did that— other times were 2003, 1947.

— Reds 9, Cubs 0— Hunter Greene needed 110 pitches to throw six innings, but he didn’t allow any hits or runs in those six innings— he walked two guys.

— Phillies 6, Braves 4— Craig Kimbrel earned his 400th career save. Bryson Stott stole three bases, scored two runs.

— Rangers 12, Orioles 2— Texas scored 8 runs in 4th inning; Corey Seager hit a grand slam.

— Rays 9, Dodgers 3— Tampa Bay is the first team since 1998 to start a season 25-5 or better at home.

— Guardians 4, Cardinals 3— Cleveland wins for only third time in last ten games.

— Giants 15, Brewers 1— Saw something I’ve never seen before in this game; top of the second inning, Giants’ manager Gabe Kapler is leaning on the dugout rail, eating an apple while his team hit. They scored three runs that inning, so I’m guessing he’ll be eating another apple during Saturday’s game.

Milwaukee SS Willie Adames was hit in the head by a line drive while sitting in the dugout; he got sent to the hospital for observation.

— Thursday night, White Sox pitchers walked 11 Detroit batters; their hitters didn’t draw any walks. First time that happened to the White Sox since July 31, 1984 against the Red Sox.

— College basketball doubleheader in Phoenix December 20:
Arizona State-Northwestern

— Arizona Cardinals released WR DeAndre Hopkins, taking the $22.6M dead cap hit for this coming season. Hopkins played for Arizona for three years; he’s made the Pro Bowl five times. 

— New Orleans Saints brought Jon Gruden in to help them install their offense with their new QB Derek Carr, who played 3+ seasons under Gruden with the Raiders.

— Mater Dei HS in Los Angeles released its football schedule; their first five games this fall are in five different states. Who pays for all that travel? 

— George Washington University dumped the nickname Colonials, after students complained that the name glorified violence toward Native Americans and other colonized people. The new moniker is Revolutionaries going forward— I’m guessing it’ll be Revs most of the time.

— Denver Nuggets have a long wait until the NBA Finals start Thursday; they can’t prepare for an opponent yet— they don’t know who it will be. Bit of a dilemma for coach Michael Malone, but a good problem to have, no doubt. 

Friday’s Den: Random stuff with the weekend here, plus Week 7 USFL trends……..

— Monday is Memorial Day, but eight major league teams have the day off. Memorial Day and Labor Day used to be big baseball days, doubleheaders and all. Seems strange that when they made the schedule, they have eight teams not playing on a holiday.

— Celtics 110, Heat 97
Boston led 61-44 at halftime.
Butler was held to 14 points.
Miami was minus-7 (16-9) in turnovers.

— Dallas 3, Vegas 2 OT
Five of seven meetings between these teams this year have gone to overtime.
Pavelski scored a power play goal at 3:18 of overtime for the win.
Golden Knights still lead series, 3-1.

— Braves 6, Phillies 5
This was the Phillies’ 50th game this season, just their 4th game vs NL East foes.

— Rockies 7, Marlins 6
Colorado blew a 6-2 lead in the ninth inning.
Rookie SS Tovar had the walk-off single for Colorado.

— Mets 10, Cubs 1
Mets scored first for the 2nd time in their last 18 games.

— Mariners 3, A’s 2— Seattle had man on first, one out in bottom of 8th. Ty France hits a pop-up to the shortstop, who lets the ball drop and gets the force at second- the runner on first was fast, so this was a smart play.

Seattle scored later in that inning anyway, but at least the A’s did something smart.

— Cardinals 2, Reds 1— St Louis won 13 of its last 18 games.

— Padres 8, Nationals 6
Nationals took lead, scoring five runs in 7th inning.
Odor hit a game-winning 3-run homer in top of the ninth.

— New England Patriots were docked two days of off-season practices after it was found the franchise violated offseason rules, as far as having players spend too much time in meetings during their off-season program.

— There was an article on the Interweb how NBA personnel people weren’t impressed by the prospects at the NBA Combine last week. 39 players wouldn’t even play in the scrimmages they had there.

Week 7 USFL trends:
Last two weeks, under is 7-1 in USFL games

Birmingham (-1.5) vs New Orleans
Stallions (4-2)
4-0 allowing 20 or less points; gave up 45-27 in losses.
3-3 ATS (favored in every game)
1-1 in games decided by 7 or less points.
under 4-2

Breakers (4-2)
lost last two games (10-17/10-16) after a 4-0 start
last three games stayed under total.
5 of 6 games decided by 7 or less points.
1-0 ATS as an underdog

New Orleans (+6) beat Stallions 45-32 in Week 3.

Philadelphia (even) vs Pittsburgh
Stars (3-3)
Won last two games, after a 1-3 start.
3-0 in games decided by 6 or less points.
Losses are by 14-8-25 points.
4 of last 5 games stayed under total.

Maulers (2-4)
0-4 if they give up more than 13 points.
Two wins were 21-13/23-7
under 4-2
0-4 if they score less than 21 points.

Pittsburgh (+6) beat Stars 21-13 in Week 3.

Houston (-3) vs Memphis
Gamblers (4-2)
won last four games, after an 0-2 start
2-1 ATS as a favorite
over 4-2

4-0 if they allow less than 29 points
losses were 29-13/38-31

Showboats (3-3)
won last three games, after an 0-3 start.
allowed 27-42-30 points in losses; 10-10-0 in wins
under four of last five games
3-3 ATS; have been underdog in every game.

Houston (-3) beat Memphis 30-26 in Week 3. 

Michigan vs New Jersey (-6.5)
Panthers (2-4)
lost last four games, after a 2-0 start
scored 13 or fewer points in all four losses.
2-1 ATS as an underdog.
last five games stayed under total.

Generals (2-4)
lost last three games, by 3-3-6 points.
Allowed 3-13 points in wins; 0-4 giving up more than 13.
1-2 ATS as a favorite.
Five of six games stayed under total.

New Jersey (+4) beat Panthers 28-13 in Week 3. 

Thursday’s Den: Schedule notes for AFC teams…….

AFC East
— Visit New Jersey in Week 1 Monday nighter, Aaron Rodgers’ Jets’ debut.
— Play Jaguars in England in Week 5.
— High expectations; play only five games at 1:00 Sunday.
— Have only two home games in last seven weeks of season. 

— Start season with road games at Chargers/Patriots; visit Buffalo in Week 4.
— Finish season with four home games in five weeks.
— New Year’s Eve in Baltimore could be a cold weather game.
— Play Chiefs in Germany in Week 9.

New England
— Open season with home games vs Eagles, Dolphins.
— Week 10, they play the Colts in Germany.
— Weeks 14-16, play three straight primetime games, two of them on road.
— Last seven games are all potentially cold weather games.

— Five primetime games, plus the Black Friday game vs Buffalo.
— Only six of their 16 listed games are 1:00 Sunday games.
— Two games with Miami aren’t until Weeks 12, 15.
— Finish regular season with road trips to Cleveland, Foxboro. 

AFC North
— Play their three AFC North road games in Weeks 2-4-5.
— Weeks 11-16, play four primetime games, with their bye week mixed in. — Play 49ers in Santa Clara on Christmas night.
— Finish regular season with home games vs Dolphins, Steelers. 

— Open, close season with games against Cleveland.
— Have four primetime games; two at home, two on road.
— Host Buffalo in Week 9 Sunday night game.
— Visit Chiefs in Arrowhead on New Year’s Eve.

— Have four home games and a bye in first six weeks of season.
— Only two primetime games: Week 2 at Steelers, Week 17 vs Jets.
— Weeks 7-13, play five road games in seven-week span.
— Weeks 12-13, they have consecutive western trips, to Denver/LA Rams.

— Open season with home games vs 49ers, Browns.
— Have four primetime games, three of them at home.
— Bye week is in Week 6, fairly early.
— Finish season with road games at Seahawks, Ravens. 

AFC South
— Low expectations; 15 of their 16 listed games are at 1pm Sunday.
— Games with the Colts are in Week 2, then in Week 18.
— Play consecutive road games only one time, Weeks 14-15.
— Bye week is in Week 7; when will rookie QB Stroud become a starter?

— No primetime games for the Colts.
— 13 games at 1:00 Sunday; low expectations.
— They play New England in Germany in Week 10.
— Three of their last four games are at home.

— Weeks 4-5, they play consecutive games in England, vs Falcons/Bills.
— Also have three primetime games, two of them at home.
— Only one of their last six games (Week 18 vs Titans) is a divisional game.
— Week 14 in Cleveland is likely a cold weather game.

— 14 games at 1:00 Sunday indicate low expectations.
— Play Ravens in England in Week 6.
— Two primetime games: at Steelers in Week 9, at Dolphins in Week 14.
— Five of their last seven games are in Nashville.

AFC West
— Sean Payton era opens with home games vs Raiders/Commanders.
— Start season vs Raiders; finish regular season in Las Vegas vs Raiders.
— Four primetime games, including visits to Kansas City, Buffalo.
— Weeks 13-15, three consecutive road games, all in domed stadiums.

Kansas City
— Super Bowl champs open at home on Thursday of Week 1 vs Lions.
— Have six primetime games, plus game in Germany vs Miami.
— Two games with Denver are close together, in Weeks 6-8.
— Week 13 in Green Bay, Week 15 in Foxboro figure to be cold weather games.

Las Vegas
— Open season with road games at Denver, Buffalo.
— Four of their primetime games are at home; go figure.
— Giants/Jets visit Las Vegas in consecutive weeks (Weeks 9-10)
— Eight of their last ten games are in domes.

LA Chargers
— Have six primetime games, four of them at home.
— Play consecutive road games only one time, Weeks 2-3 at Titans/Vikings.
— Two games against Denver are in Weeks 14, 17, both in December.
— Week 13 in Foxboro, Week 17 in Denver are potential cold weather games.

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings……..

— Boston 116, Miami 99
Celtics stay alive, outscoring Miami 66-43 in second half.
Tatum scored 33 points, had 11 rebounds, 7 assists.
Miami made only 8-32 shots on the arc.

Heat was 30-49-3 against the spread in the regular season this year, tied for worst in the NBA, but they’re 12-5 ATS so far in the playoffs.

Miami-Boston series is the 151st NBA playoff series where a team led 3-0; no team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win the series. That is zero for 150.

— Florida Panthers are 11-4 in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs; Wednesday’s game will be the first time they’ve been favored in a playoff game this season.

— NFL did a smart thing this week; they passed a rule where a team can have a #3 emergency QB at their games, as long as that QB is on the team’s 53-man roster. This eliminates the possibility of two QB’s getting hurt and a team being stuck without a QB, which happened to the 49ers in the playoffs last year.

— Tom Brady is now a minority owner of the Las Vegas Raiders; he also owns a small part of the WNBA team in Las Vegas. Could he unretire and play for the Raiders?

There is an NFL rule that says all 32 teams would have to sign off on a player suiting up for a team that they have a financial interest in. Chances are one (or more) teams in the AFC West wouldn’t want Brady playing QB for the Raiders.

— Touchdowns scored on a team’s opening drive last year

8— Eagles, Vikings
6— Bengals, Browns, Seattle, Titans
5— Falcons, Bills, Lions, Chargers, 49ers
1— Ravens, Packers, Jets

— 2025 NFL Draft will happen in Green Bay; hopefully it won’t be snowing in Wisconsin then.

— Last winter we tracked college basketball referee John Higgins, how he would often work six games a week at age 54. Higgins has now apparently retired from officiating and will become Coordinator of Officials fir six conferences out west.

Higgins worked in nine Final Fours, two national title games; he worked in 95 games this past season.

— Hall of Fame tip-off college hoop tournament at Mohegan Sun in November:
Mississippi State vs Washington State
Rhode Island vs Northwestern

— Cubs 7, Mets 2— Cubs are 17-8 when Yan Gomes starts, 4-18 when he doesn’t. 

— Arizona 4, Phillies 3— Diamondbacks won nine of their last 11 games.

— Cardinals 8, Reds 5— Goldschmidt hit two homers; St Louis scored seven runs in the first four innings.

— Dodgers 8, Braves 1— Rookie P Miller tossed five innings, got his first MLB win. 

— Rockies 5, Miami 4— Colorado catcher Elias Díaz is hitting .345 this season.

— White Sox 4, Cleveland 2– Guardians are 8-14 in their last 22 games.

— Blue Jays 20, Tampa Bay 1— Rays are 6-8 in their last 14 games, after a 29-7 start. Toronto had 27 hits in this games.

— New York 6, Baltimore 5 (10)— Orioles led 4-0 in fourth inning.

— Angels 4, Red Sox 0— Boston lost its last three games, scoring one run.

— Rangers 6, Pirates 1– Nathan Eovaldi has thrown 41 IP in his last five starts, with two complete games.

— Giants 4, Twins 3— Minnesota led 3-0 in 6th inning; Giants’ first two runs scored on bases loaded walks. Michael Conforto hit the game-winning home run for SF. 

Tuesday’s Den: Schedule notes for NFC teams……

NFC East
— Open against Giants for 7th time in last 12 years.
— Weeks 5-6, consecutive west coast games at 49ers, Chargers.
— Three of their first six games are in primetime.
— Week 15 in Buffalo, Week 18 in Washington- potential cold weather games.

— Four of their first six games are in primetime.
— Week 2, @ Arizona; Week 3, Thursday game at San Francisco
— Weeks 9-11, consecutive road games, at Las Vegas, Dallas, Washington
— Play their last two games at home, vs Rams/Eagles.

— Four of their first six games are on the road.
— Host old friend Jonathan Gannon when Cardinals visit New Year’s Eve.
— Have five primetime games, three of them on road.
— Two games against the Giants are in Weeks 16, 18.

— Low expectations from NFL; Week 5 is only primetime game.
— Weeks 6-10, have four road games in five-week span.
— Visit Dallas on Thanksgiving Day.
— Have a late bye, Week 14.

NFC North
— Play Green Bay in their opener; rematch is in Week 18.
— Have four primetime games, three of them on road.
— Weeks 8-12, have four road games in five-week span, all in domes.
— Weeks 14-18 all figure to be cold weather tilts (@ Cleveland/Green Bay)

— Four primetime games, including Week 1 at Super Bowl champ Chiefs.
— Week 14 at Chicago is their only outdoor game after October 22.
— Weeks 13-17, have four road games in five-week span.
— Two games against the Vikings are in Weeks 16, 18.

Green Bay
— Open with road games at Chicago, Atlanta.
— Week 6 is an early bye week.
— Have five primetime games, three of them on road.
— Visit the Lions on Thanksgiving Day. 

— Short work week in Week 2, Thursday game at Philadelphia.
— Five primetime games, three of them on road.
— Chiefs visit Twin Cities in Week 5, a Super Bowl IV rematch.
— Week 11 at Denver, Week 15 at Cincinnati potential cold weather games.

NFC South
— Play five of their first six games at home.
— Week 4, they play the Jaguars in England.
— Week 13 at Jets, Week 17 at Chicago potential cold weather games.
— 13 of 16 listed games are at 1:oo ET; low expectations from NFL

— Four of their first six games are on the road.
— Weeks 12-14, have road games at Titans, Bucs, Saints.
— Two primetime games; Week 2 vs Saints, Week 10 at Chicago.
— Frank Reich’s old team, the Colts, visit Charlotte in Week 9. 

New Orleans
— Four of their first six games are on the road.
— Weeks 13-15, have three consecutive home games.
— Short work week in Week 16, a Thursday game at the Rams.
— Week 17 at Tampa Bay is their only outdoor game after October 8th.

Tampa Bay
— 12 of 16 listed games are at 1:00 ET; low expectations.
— Two primetime games; Week 2 vs Eagles, Week 8 at Buffalo.
— Baker Mayfield faces Carolina, his old team, in Weeks 13, 18.
— Week 15 at Lambeau Field figures to be a cold weather game.

NFC West
— No primetime games; very low expectations.
— December road games in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Philly……..brrrrr
— Their three NFC West road games are in Weeks 4-6-7.
— Have Week 14 bye week, very late.

— Three of their first four games are on the road.
— Weeks 5-7, have three consecutive home games.
— Two primetime games: Week 3 at Cincinnati, Week 16 vs Saints.
— Week 14 at Ravens, Week 17 at Giants figure to be cold weather games.

San Francisco
— Open season with road games at Steelers, Rams.
— Have three consecutive home games, in Weeks 3-5.
— Have five primetime games, three of them at home.
— Week 13 at Philly, Week 17 at Washington figure to be cold weather games.

— Week 5 bye week is an early one.
— Have three primetime games, two of them on road.
— Host the 49ers on Thanksgiving night.
— Have four of last six games on road, but none in cold weather. 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Sunday………

— Padres 7, Red Sox 0— San Diego has been struggling really badly; they loaded the bases in the first inning in this game, scored on a bases-loaded walk, then Rougned Odor cleared the bases with a 3-run double, giving them a 4-0 lead.

The Padres’ TV crew was noticeably relieved by Odor’s double, you could hear it in their voices. The stress level gets high when a team has been losing; this was a big win for San Diego.

Michael Wacha has allowed only one run in his last four starts, covering 25 innings.

— Dodgers are 29-19, lead Arizona by 1.5 games in NL West, but their pitching staff has lot of injuries; Dustin May/Jose Urias both got hurt this week. LA’s next two games in Atlanta will be started by rookies, Gavin Stone Monday, Bobby Miller Tuesday.

— Milwaukee is 7-11 in May, but they’ve come from behind and now lead the NL Central by a game, mostly because the Pirates are 4-13 in May.

This is very good news for St Louis, which is 11-8 in May. Cardinals scored 64 runs in their last eight games.

— Cardinals 10, Dodgers 5— Oscar Mercado drove in five runs from the #9 spot in the order.

— Orioles 8, Blue Jays 3 (11)— Cedric Mullins went 5-6, with two doubles and three RBI. Orioles are 31-16, have the 2nd-best record in the American League.

— Nationals 6, Tigers 4— Detroit starter Joey Wentz faced 16 batters; 10 of them got hits, which is a bad thing. Washington wound up with a season-high 18 hits.

— Mets 5-2, Guardians 4-1— Guardians wrap up a 1-5 road trip by losing pair of one-run games in this doubleheader. Cleveland’s last three losses were all by one run.

— Texas 13, Colorado 3— Rangers swept Colorado this weekend, scoring 31 runs.

— Phillies 2, Cubs 1— Bryson Stott hit a pinch-hit, 2-run homer in the 7th inning. Tiajuan Walker tossed 5.1 scoreless innings. Craig Kimbrel got his 399th career save.

— Astros 2, A’s 0— Framber Valdez threw a 104-pitch complete game.

— Angels 4, Twins 2— Mickey Moniak’s 2-run double in the 7th inning was the game-winning hit.

— Heat 128, Celtics 102
Miami leads this series, 3-0.
Heat shot 56.8% from the floor, made 19-35 on the arc.
No one on Boston scored more than 14 points.

— Purdue big man Zach Edey still hasn’t decided whether he’ll enter the NBA Draft or go back to Purdue for another season. Pretty big decision; I’m unsure why the kid would pass on making the big bucks in the NBA, but it is his choice.

— NBA teams that have fallen behind 3-0 in a best-of-7 series are 0-149 all-time; this doesn’t mean the Celtics/Lakers can’t win their series, just means it is highly unlikely.

— If the baseball playoffs started today (they don’t):
NL: Braves, Dodgers, Brewers. Wild Cards: Arizona, Pirates, Mets
AL: Rays, Twins, Rangers. Wild Cards: Orioles, New York, Astros

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

— Guardians-Mets got rained out Saturday, are playing a doubleheader today.

Mets’ starting pitchers: Scherzer/Verlander, earning a combined $86,666,667 this year.
Cleveland’s entire payroll this year: $92,774,029. For the whole team.

— AJ Pierzynski was the analyst on the Mariners-Braves game Saturday. He was talking about how Marcell Ozuna recently hit the 10-year plateau as a major league player, and what a big deal it is for players to get to that point. 

Never realized the 10-year plateau was this big a deal to players; once you get 10 years of service time, you get the maximum pension whether you’re a superstar, a utility infielder or a bullpen coach. Fewer than 10% of players in baseball history have played for a decade or more.

— Nuggets 119, Lakers 108
Denver outscored LA 35-26 in 4th quarter.
Jamal Murray scored 37 points, was +18 in 42:00.
Nuggets lead series 3-0; they’ve never been to the NBA Finals.

— Jayson Tatum scored 64 points in the first two games of the Boston-Miami series, but he didn’t scored a basket in the 4th quarter of either one- Miami won both games.

— Texas 11, Colorado 5— Bud Black/Bruce Bochy have managed 212 games against each other; they split those games, 106 wins each.

Bochy has won three World Series, is a sure-fire Hall of Famer; Black has made the playoffs twice in 16 years as a manager.

Go figure.

— Orioles 6, Blue Jays 5 (10)— Toronto manager John Schneider screwed up on mound visits, was forced to take out Blue Jays’ starter Alek Manoah in the sixth inning, an embarrassing mistake for a team that has lost five of its last six games.

— Cardinals 6, Dodgers 5— Nolan Gorman hit a 3-run homer in the bottom of the 8th.

— Minnesota Twins are 3-10 in last thirteen games when the winning run scored from the 7th inning on. Despite that, Twins are 25-21, lead AL Central by 3.5 games. 

— Boston 4, San Diego 3— Padres are 20-26, losing four in row, 11 of last 13 games. They’re only a game out of last place in the NL West, despite having a payroll of $249,820,745.

$250M for a cruddy 20-26 record; how does GM AJ Preller keep his job?

Preller has been San Diego’s GM since August, 2014; he has a contract that runs thru 2026, but there is very little evidence that he is good at his job.

He traded Trea Turner for Wil Myers
He was suspended 30 days by MLB for not disclosing medical info before a trade.
He gave Eric Hosmer an eight-year, $144M contract in 2018.

They made a movie about Billy Beane because the A’s made the playoffs with a small payroll; the better movie would be about a GM who has an almost unlimited budget and still can’t win.

— Cubs DFA’d Hosmer this weekend; Bronx DFA’d OF Aaron Hicks.

— ESPN’s mobile app doesn’t list USFL scores, which seems petty; you can get chess results and snooker scores on there, but the USFL competes with the XFL, so no scores. 

— Florida 2, Carolina 1 (OT)
Matthew Tkachuk scored in overtime for the 2nd straight game.
Panthers lead series 2-0.

— If the baseball playoffs started today (they don’t):
NL: Braves, Dodgers, Pitt/Mil Wild Cards: Arizona, Pitt/Mil. Miami
AL: Rays, Twins, Rangers. Wild Cards: Orioles, New York, Astros

Saturday’s Den: Random stuff with weekend here……..

— RIP to Jim Brown, one of the greatest players in NFL history, who passed away at age 87.

Brown became a good actor after his playing days, with 58 TV/movie credits; he was Al Pacino’s assistant coach in Any Given Sunday, Denzel Washington’s probation officer in He Got Game.

Brown played nine years in the NFL, led the league in rushing eight times. He helped Cleveland win the 1964 NFL title. RIP, sir.

— We’ve had our fantasy baseball league for 19 years now; Friday night was the worst night my team has ever had. Awful.

It was so hideous it was easy to laugh off, but usually I’ll watch a replay of a game late at night. Instead, I watched the new movie Air on Amazon Prime. 

Anything with Matt Damon/Ben Affleck is going to be good, but this was very good, dealing with how Sonny Vaccaro became totally focused on Nike signing Michael Jordan as its #1 basketball face back in 1984, when Nike was #3 in the sneaker game, behind Converse/adidas.

Vaccaro sold Jordan’s mom on the idea of her son joining Nike; apparently to this day, Jordan still banks around $400M a year from royalties from Air Jordan sales. Must be nice. 

— Giants 4, Marlins 3— Miami is doing well at 23-22, but they’re 2-7 when Alcantara starts; he is pitching well, but is breaking down in one key inning every game. On this night, he fielded a 50-foot ground ball but threw it into right field, setting up the Giants to hit sac flies on their next two at-bats, and those two runs decided the game.

— Mets 10, Guardians 9 (10)
Cleveland led 5-0 in 5th, 7-3 in 7th, 9-7 in 10th.
Ex-Guardian Francisco Lindor has the walk-off hit for the Mets. 

— Red Sox 6, Padres 1— Something is going to happen with the Padres soon; they’re awful, despite having a huge payroll.
Last two weeks, they’re 2-10
They’ve scored 3 or fewer runs in nine of those 12 games. 

Padres are 0-9 this month if they allow 4 or more runs.

Tigers 8, Nationals 6— Since May 3rd, Detroit is very quietly 10-5. 

— Veteran outfielder Jake Marisnick must be very good at packing:
2013-14— Marlins
2014-19— Astros
2020— Mets
2021— Cubs
2021— Padres
2022— Pirates
2023— White Sox

Veteran pitcher Jordan Lyles of Kansas City has pitched for eight teams in 13 years, and he isn’t superstitious. He’s worn eight different uniform numbers.

— Players with 40+ home runs, 40+ steals in same season:
1988— Jose Canseco, A’s
1996— Barry Bonds, SF
1998— Alex Rodriguez, Sea
2006— Alfonso Soriano, Wash

— Battle for Atlantis college hoop tournament in November:
Arkansas, Michigan, North Carolina, Villanova
Memphis, Northern Iowa, Stanford, Texas Tech

— Charleston Classic, November 16-19:
Dayton, Houston, St John’s, Wake Forest
LSU, North Texas, Towson, Utah

— Heat 111, Celtics 105— Miami opens series with pair of road wins; they outscored Boston 36-22 in the 4th quarter. Bam Abedayo had 22 points, 14 rebounds for the Heat.

Miami now has the most playoff wins of any team ever that finished last in the league in scoring during the regular season that season

— Last five years, the NBA team with the worst regular season record didn’t get the #1 pick in the draft— the lottery is having the desired effect, which makes Adam Silver happy.

— Vegas 4, Dallas 3 OT— Knights scored 1:35 into overtime to send everyone back onto the Strip happy. Dallas has tied game with 1:59 left in regulation. Vegas leads Western final, 1-0. 

Friday’s Den: 13 of my favorite sports-related movies…….

13) Rocky— The original was a true classic; a journeyman boxer gets a chance to fight for the heavyweight title, and makes the most of it. 40 years later, tourists who come to Philadelphia still pose for pictures near the Rocky statue.

12) Bull Durham— Kevin Costner is a minor league catcher who is brought in to mentor a hot-shot pitching prospect. Robert Wuhl is the pitching coach, Susan Sarandon mentors the prospect off the field.

11) Draft Day— Costner does lot of sports movies; he is GM of the Cleveland Browns in this one, Denis Leary is the Browns’ coach. 

The year this movie came out, NFL pushed back the draft so the movie could be promoted more, but Radio City Music Hall wasn’t available for the later date, which is why they started moving the draft around the country. Sometimes great ideas happen by accident.

10) Major League— Bob Uecker should’ve won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Indians’ radio announcer Harry Doyle.

9) Friday Night Lights— Billy Bob Thornton is a high school football coach in west Texas, where they take high school football very seriously. 

8) One on One— Robby Benson is a hotshot high school basketball player who gets recruited by a big-time college team, then finds himself in over his head.

7) For Love of the Game— Kevin Costner is a star pitcher for the Tigers who is at the end of his career; he has flashbacks throughout his last game. 

Detroit’s manager in this movie is JK Simmons, who is a Tigers fan in real life; New York’s manager is the late Augie Garrido, one of the all-time great college baseball coaches.

6) Any Given Sunday— Al Pacino is a pro football coach whose team is struggling; Cameron Diaz is the owner, Dennis Quaid, Jamie Foxx are two of the QB’s.

Miami Sharks play against four teams in the movie, all coached by NFL Hall of Famers.

5) Invincible— True story about Vince Papale, a 30-year old bartender who tries out for the 1976 Philadelphia Eagles and makes the squad as a special teams player.

4) Fast Break— Gabe Kaplan manages a New York City deli until he applies for a job as a college basketball coach in Nevada. Bernard King, Michael Warren are two of his players; another one is a girl disguised as a guy.

3) Blue Chips— Nick Nolte is a college basketball coach who used to win a lot; in order to start winning again, he has to decide whether to break the recruiting rules or not.

Bob Cousy is the AD; Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway are two of the recruits. Lot of cameos from basketball people; Jerry Tarkanian, Jim Boeheim, Rick Pitino, Dick Vitale.

2) Moneyball— Beginning isn’t very good, the end sucks, but I’m an A’s fan and this movie is about how the 2003 A’s put together a team that won 20 games in a row, made the playoffs.

Only really bad thing about this movie is they made skipper Art Howe look like a bad manager, and he was anything but— you don’t win 20 games in a row by accident. 

1) American Underdog— Kurt Warner’s story had to become a movie; he played in NFL Europe, worked in a supermarket, played in the Arena League, then became an NFL Hall of Famer. It is such an improbable movie that it would seem ridiculous, except we know it is true. 

Thursday’s Den: Doing some thinking out loud…….

— One of the most fun parts of coming to Las Vegas is sitting in a sportsbook, and having a conversation with a total stranger about sports/betting. This is especially fun when you learn a lot from the conversation, like today when I met Tom from Chicago.

All of us have more in common than what separates us; here are two people who live 1,000 miles apart and who have never met, chopping it up for a couple hours about a variety of things, and then leaving as friends. 

— It aggravates me when baseball teams platoon young prospects; how about finding out if a lefty prospect can hit lefties? Maybe you have a star on your hands; if you constantly sit him vs southpaws, he’ll never believe he can hit them. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it sucks.

I’m thinking of JJ Bleday, who plays for Oakland; he’s hitting .279 in 43 at-bats, and is 2-6 vs lefties. Why only six AB’s? The kid looks like he can play; the A’s are horrible. Play his ass every day and find out if you have a big leaguer on your hands.

— Orioles 3, Angels 1— Two years ago, Baltimore was 52-110; last year, they were 83-79 and so far this year, they’re 28-15.

If manager Brandon Hyde was doing this is New York, the media would want him inducted into Cooperstown, but in Baltimore, no one talks much about him.

— Marlins 4, Nationals 3— Miami is quietly 14-1 in one-run games, 8-20 in all their other games.

— Pirates 8, Tigers 0— 43-year old Rich Hill tossed six shutout innings.

— Rockies 11, Reds 6— Cincinnati led 5-0 in fifth inning. Colorado C Elias Diaz is hitting .331; he knocked in three runs in this game.

— Dodgers 7, Twins 3— Rookie OF James Outman hit a 7th-inning grand slam.

— Arizona 5, A’s 3— Diamondbacks scored twice in the ninth after Laureano’s home run erased a 3-0 deficit. A’s are now 1-9 if they won their previous game.

— Giants 7, Phillies 4— Phillies erased a 4-0 deficit to tie game, but Giants scored three runs in the 8th for the win. Phils lost their last four games, scoring a total of 11 runs.

— Royals 4, Padres 3— San Diego has a huge payroll and is 20-24; they’re 2-9 in their last 11 games, have scored 3 or fewer runs in in six of last eight games. Not good.

— Astros 7, Cubs 6— Chicago led 6-1 in the 8th inning.

— Mets 8, Rays 7 (10)— If you bet the under in this game, look away; Rays led 1-0 after six innings. Last six Tampa Bay games have gone over the total.

— Toronto 3, New York 0 (10)— Danny Jansen, of all people, hits a walk-off three-run tater. 

— New York P Domingo German has been suspended 10 games and fined by MLB for violating the rules regarding foreign substances. New York will play one man short during the suspension.

— Baseball injuries:
Milwaukee P Wade Miley (lat strain) goes on the IL
San Diego 3B Manny Machado has a small fracture in his left hand after he was hit by a pitch Monday night. Padres don’t know yet if he’ll head to the IL.
Dodgers P Dustin May has a flexor pronator strain (elbow), will miss at least a month

— Heat 123, Celtics 116 (Miami leads, 1-0)
Miami outscored Boston 46-25 in third quarter.
Heat made 16-31 shots on the arc.

— North Carolina transfer Caleb Love was all set to transfer to Michigan, but that move got the kibosh Wednesday; there was an admissions issue related to credits transferring. Love is back in the transfer portal; he is the best player in there right now. 

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings……..

— ESPN got just about a half-hour out of the NBA Draft Lottery Tuesday night, and for some reason, the Westgate Superbook had the audio up the whole time.

I’m totally convinced that ESPN coaches its people to say “(insert name) is the greatest (insert position) ever”

They said Victor Wembanyama is the greatest draft prospect ever; any of those geniuses ever hear of a guy named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? 

Milwaukee Bucks went 27-55 in their first NBA season; they won a coin flip and drafted Kareem and for the next five seasons, they went:


Milwaukee made the Final Four of the NBA in its 2nd, 3rd, 4th year in existence; they won the NBA title in their third year of existence.

No doubt about it, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the best draft pick ever.

— San Antonio Spurs won the draft lottery; they’ll get Victor Wembanyama. Last time the Spurs had the #1 pick was 1997, when they took Tim Duncan- I felt old typing that.

— Over the last three seasons, NBA teams that have won the most games are the Bucks, the Suns and the 76ers. All three of them have fired their coach in the last few weeks. Go figure.

— By the way, talking about the NBA Draft, remember that nine years ago, the Denver Nuggets picked a guy from Europe with the 41st pick. No one at ESPN called him the greatest anything anywhere, but these days, they might. 

Nikola Jokic has turned into a huge star.

— Nuggets 132, Lakers 126

Denver led 74-56 at halftime.
At one point, Nuggets were outrebounding LA, 20-3.
Lakers’ three subs were a combined +18, Denver’s were minus-31.

— This is the 27th NBA season where the Celtics/Lakers are both in the Final Four:
They met in the Finals 12 times
Lakers won, Celtics lost 9 times.
Celtics won, Lakers lost 4 times
They both lost……..once.

— One more quick thing about ESPN’s NBA studio show: If you insist on four people on a panel, how about more than one of them being a former player? A former coach wouldn’t hurt, either.

— A’s 9, Arizona 8 (12)— Oakland trailed 8-4 in 7th inning; Ryan Noda tied the game with a grand slam, and their bullpen did a great job. Arizona didn’t score after the 7th inning. 

A’s finally got their 10th win this season; their starting pitchers still have only two wins, but they’ve been spunky, albeit not very talented.

— Marlins 5, Nationals 4— Both bullpens blew a late-inning lead; Jorge Soler walked it off with a 2-run homer in the ninth inning.

— Rays 8, Mets 5— Rays, with a payroll of $76,955,301, are now 32-11.
Mets, with a payroll of $358,404,946, are 20-23.

— Baltimore Orioles are 27-15, looking like a playoff team, but they’ve been shut out in Kyle Gibson’s last three starts.

— Quick NFL stat: The last 18 times there was a divisional home underdog in Week 1 of an NFL season, the home dog went 15-1-2 against the spread.

Another one; Jacksonville Jaguars are 13-2-1 ATS in their last 16 games against the Colts. 

— I’m enjoying my trip to Las Vegas, but I’m not going to miss hearing the person in the next room snore while this is being typed up. Every freakin’ night.